Pipsissewa – Chimaphila umbellata

Pipsissewa - Chimaphila umbellata, photos by Steven Foster

Overall At-Risk Score: 40

Latin name:

Chimaphila umbellata

Common Name:

Pipsissewa, Prince’s Pine

Family:

Ericaceae (Heath family)

Subfamily: Pyroloideae (previously considered an individual family, Pyrolaceae)

Lifespan:

Perennial

Reproduction:

The flowers of Pipissewa bloom in late summer and are pollinated primarily by bumblebees or staphylinid beetles. They produce berries that can last throughout the winter that contain many tiny seeds, but it is not clear how these seeds are dispersed.

Geographic Region:

Pipsissewa can be found in every U.S. state except for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. It can also be found in every province and territory of Canada except for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Habitat:

Pipsissewa is commonly found in the understories of several habitats, including mixed woods and coniferous forests, but it isn’t typically the dominant plant, in the way that plants such as many fern species are more likely to be. The plants prefer dry soil that is slightly sandy or rocky, and they do well with partial to full shade.

Ability to Withstand Disturbance and Overharvest:

Pipsissewa is extremely sensitive to trampling, and heedless hikers can cause serious damage to the population of an area if they step on them.

Status of Endangered/Threatened (by state):

Chimaphila umbellata is “Threatened” in Iowa and Ohio, “Exploitably Vulnerable” in New York, and “Endangered” in Illinois.

Chimaphila umbellata has not yet been evaluated by the IUCN Red List.

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

Historically, pipsissewa has been used primarily to treat issues of the blood. It was believed to be a “blood purifier” and as a treatment for coughing up blood, but also was also used to try to help people with kidney and stomach problems, and was used as an eyedrop for sore eyes.

Recommendations For Industrial and Home Use:

Please talk to your doctor before attempting to take Chimaphila umbellata or any other medicinal plant, and seek out cultivated plants rather than wild-harvested ones, if possible.

Citations

  • Hart, Jeff, 1992, Montana Native Plants and Early Peoples, Helena. Montana Historical Society Press, page 34.
  • Leighton, Anna L., 1985, Wild Plant Use by the Woods Cree (Nihithawak) of East-Central Saskatchewan, Ottawa. National Museums of Canada. Mercury Series, page 35.
  • Matthews, Robin F. 1994. Chimaphila umbellata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Retrieved August 29, 2019, from https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/chiumb/all.html
  • Mechling, W.H., 1959, The Malecite Indians With Notes on the Micmacs, Anthropologica 8:239-263, page 253.
  • Rousseau, Jacques, 1947, Ethnobotanique Abenakise, Archives de Folklore 11:145-182, page 154.
  • Tantaquidgeon, Gladys, 1972, Folk Medicine of the Delaware and Related Algonkian Indians, Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Historical Commission Anthropological Papers #3, page 35.
  • Taylor, Linda Averill, 1940, Plants Used As Curatives by Certain Southeastern Tribes, Cambridge, MA. Botanical Museum of Harvard University, page 47.
  • USDA, (n.d.), Plants Profile for Chimaphila umbellata (pipsissewa), Retrieved August 29, 2019, from https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=CHUM

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